Did anyone really think that the Taliban could hold territory against a NATO onslaught--oh sorry I meant the Afghan forces! No mention here of US air support. If there is any trouble troops just call in the US to bomb.
Just to hedge their bets the official pronouncements warn that there could be more attacks. That is sure a good bet. The attacks may even be inside Kandahar. The casualty count cannot be verified by reporters. Who knows what casualties there were and who they were. If they remained in the villages they are just taken to be Taliban.
THE AFGHAN MISSION
Routed Taliban flee territory north of Kandahar
Despite Arghandab defeat, insurgents still capable of spectacular attacks in coming months, Canadian commander warns
June 20, 2008
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- The Taliban's swift retreat from their newly conquered territory north of Kandahar city left Afghan officials triumphant yesterday, but a Canadian commander warned that the insurgents are capable of more spectacular attacks in the coming months.
Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, the top Canadian commander in Afghanistan, said Afghan forces and foreign troops pushed deep into the Arghandab valley on Wednesday night. A few hours after dawn yesterday morning, a Taliban spokesman confirmed by telephone that most insurgents were pulling out of the district.
"There is no doubt in my mind, however, that further insurgent attacks will take place in the months ahead," Gen. Thompson said.
In the past week, Taliban insurgents launched a spectacular attack on Sarpoza jail on the western outskirts of Kandahar city, freeing nearly all the prisoners, and briefly seized control of a dozen villages in Arghandab district, a strategic valley with no major Taliban presence until recently.
Speaking to reporters in Huntsville, Ont., Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged that the Sarpoza raid was a "setback," and his senior commander in Kandahar said more such attacks can be expected.
Gen. Thompson said the Taliban remain capable of more attacks, even something on the scale of the prison break.
The latest crisis appeared to have passed, however. Kandahar police chief Sayed Agha Saqib said 50 to 60 insurgents were killed in the fighting, including two fleeing Taliban shot by police near the bridge that connects Arghandab with the district of Shah Wali Kot.
Many other insurgents escaped northward, officials said.
"The search is still going on," Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid told reporters. "Wherever they are, we will find them, and if they think what they've showed us is the tip of the iceberg, they can come back and they will get the same treatment that their insurgent brothers received in the last 24 hours."
NATO estimates that 700 families, or roughly 5,000 people, given the average size of an Afghan family, have fled Arghandab district in the past week. A military statement urged those people to go home, but the Afghan official responsible for the district, Haji Ghulam Farooq, said they should not be invited to return while Afghan and Canadian troops continue to sweep the area for insurgents and other hazards.
"We're not allowing the ordinary people back to their villages yet because we don't know if there are any land mines or Taliban left over," Mr. Farooq said. "We had fighting this afternoon, but it was only minor fighting."
One of those whose family was displaced, a 35-year-old farmer named Abdullah, said he is still waiting to be certain the Taliban have vanished. He moved his wife and four children from the village of Kohak on Tuesday, just before it was bloodily retaken from insurgents on Wednesday.
"We are happy the fighting is finishing now," Abdullah said. "But maybe the Taliban will come again to Arghandab. I thought the fighting would continue for a month or a year, like in Panjwai, so we will be lucky if this is the end of the fighting." Despite having received no assistance from the government or aid agencies, the farmer said he wants nothing but security.
"I have a good garden and pomegranate orchard at home, so I don't need anything. I just need my village back."
Some villagers had feared the fighting in Arghandab would resemble the kind of offensive launched by foreign troops in the Panjwai valley two years ago, when a large group of insurgents was routed by heavy bombing and many civilians were killed.
By contrast, the Arghandab operation appeared to rely on an influx of 1,400 Afghan soldiers instead of aerial bombings, and few civilian casualties were reported.
The Afghan military responded to the Taliban threat this week with signs of growing professionalism, the Canadian commander said.
Hundreds of troops from Kabul were relocated to Kandahar and incorporated into the local fighting force with a speed that Gen. Thompson said was impressive.
"From flash to bang we're talking about a two- to three-day period," he said. "That takes a lot of co-ordination."
The arrival of so many fresh Afghan soldiers also allowed Gen. Thompson to set up a new outpost in a soccer stadium inside the city, and request British paratroopers to patrol the streets, without leaving any outlying districts undefended.
"Nothing else was thinned out in the rest of the province," Gen. Thompson said.
But the presence of so many foreign troops inside the city limits has rattled some urban residents, who worry that the war is drawing closer.
"The soldiers must go to villages and stop the Taliban from coming to the city," said Said Ahmad, 25, a money changer. "They should not make their bases inside the city."